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Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Watch the video.  It's funny!


Grammatical Errors


It doesn’t cross my eyes any if you have a few instances where you used double quotations when you should have used singles and vice versa, or if you have the occasional homophone confusion.  It happens, and they’re an easy enough fix.  However, if your manuscript is so riddled with errors I’m starting to think you believe:

The exclamation mark is the standard way to punctuate a sentence...

A rose is a flour and flower is what you coat chicken with before you fry it...

That single quotations are the standard for dialogue (unless you’re a British-English author.  I know that’s one of the ways you do it across the pond.)...

That it’s perfectly fine to do this!?!? or this!!!!...

That it’s PERFECTLY FINE TO DO THIS...

And that you seem to have never cracked open a dictionary to check for spelling or meaning...

I’m probably going to reject it.  For example, literally.  While the dictionary does list a figurative meaning for the word now, it originally meant something actually happened.  So if your character says, “My head literally exploded”, you’d better get a mop, because you have a mess to clean up.  Ick.  And if their head literally exploded, how are we even discussing the matter with them?  Unless it’s from the POV of a dead character.  And while that’s been done quite well, it’s a very hard POV to pull off.  The word has been incorrectly used so much in daily language that even the dictionary has been infected.

And yes, I’m guilty of this.  I talk like that.  My head has literally exploded.  My heart has literally stopped.  I’ve literally been scared to death.  So how did I make this post?  I’m literally a ghost speaking to you from beyond the grave, that’s how.  *grin*  The word should actually be figuratively.

My head exploded, figuratively speaking.

But, since the dictionary now gives a figurative definition for literally, I suppose we’re stuck with it and will just have to suck it up and move on.  *sigh*  But there are other words authors misuse because they think the words mean something else.  It’s not uncommon, so I have no problem telling the author I don’t think they want to use that word there.  But when the author uses a lot of words incorrectly, that’s when I wonder if they’ve ever checked the definitions.  It’s easy to read a word in the context of one sentence and get the wrong impression, but you don’t want to consistently identify soup as gruel.  They’re similar, but not the same thing.

It’s easy to overlook a few of these instances, because the mind glosses over things and sees what it wants to, like the difference between reign and rein.  But, if you have a lot of these mistakes throughout the manuscript, you want to clear them up before submitting.  This is even worse if your query and synopsis contain a lot of these errors.


One additional remark about extra punctuation and all caps for emphasis.  Sometimes you do see it in books published by one of the Big Six, and that’s okay.  One, the “rules” of publishing change from time to time.  What was acceptable five years ago might not be acceptable now, and what’s acceptable now might not be acceptable in five years.  Two, it could also come down to the house style guidelines and requirements of the individual publisher.  If you really want to write, “YOOOOUUUUUU!!!!!!”, I’m likely to suggest changing it to “Yoooouuuuuu!” because several houses tell you not to use all caps for emphasis, and not to use multiple punctuation.  You’re better off not doing it.

3 comments:

Charity Bradford said...

Ug! Homophones are what get me. When I'm typing fast the wrong spelling will often end up on the paper and then continue to slip through edits. It's like they don't register in my head. This is why paying an editor is SO important!

Liz A. said...

I once read a really bad book (one that clearly had no editor) where the author used "here" for what the ears do. Multiple times.

Angela said...

Homophones seem to be one of the most common errors.

Liz, that was actually another example that crossed my mind when I was writing the post, because I've seen the here/hear confusion quite a bit.